A customs-licensed clearing agent, Suleiman Mohammed, is in trouble after one of his workers, Yinka Afolabi, allegedly absconded with N1.8m meant for the clearance of a Toyota Camry.
Following Yinka’s disappearance, Mohammed, was locked up in a police cell at the Tin Can Island, Apapa, Lagos State, for about six days.
All efforts to trace the suspect had been abortive.
PUNCH Metro learnt that 43-year-old Afolabi had been working for Mohammed for about 10 years.
Speaking about his sad predicament,Mohammed said whenever he got a contract, Afolabi usually liaised with customs officers for the release of the cars from the ports.
The 55-year-old agent said that a customer gave him over N2m to clear a car from the port.
“I have been working with the customer for the past seven years. Our relationship started after he called me one day and said somebody recommended me to him. Since then, we had been working together to import vehicles. When he was satisfied with my work, he introduced me to many of his friends.
“He called me in September 2018 that he was taking delivery of a Toyota Camry 2015 model and I should assist in the clearance from the ports. We negotiated for over N2m. He asked me what the total duty was and I said about N1.8m. The remaining balance was supposed to be the processing fee. He agreed and forwarded the money to me.
“Yinka (Afolabi) works in the terminal and usually clears vehicles for me. He has been working with me for the past 10 years. Whenever we have a job to do, we sit to deliberate on it. I called him on the man’s job and after our discussion, I sent N1.3m to his bank account. I followed him to a bank and withdrew additional N500,000 cash, which I gave to him.”
He said he was surprised when he did not get feedback from Afolabi.
He noted that when he called him a week after, the suspect gave him an excuse, adding that two weeks later, he stopped taking calls.
“I reported the case to the police at Tin Can Island Port. I told the police that although I did not know his house address, I know he lives in Abule Egba, which is within the Agege neighbourhood, where I live.
“That weekend, he suddenly called me and said we needed to see. A friend advised me to report to the nearest police station. I went to a police station at Iju Ishaga and the policemen said I should alert them immediately he showed up. While he was talking to me, I gave the police a signal and they arrested him that Sunday.
“He was taken to the Area G Police Command, and subsequently transferred to First Gate, Tin Can Island Police Station,” Mohammed added.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the following day, the complainant and the suspect met at the station, where Afolabi allegedly claimed that he diverted the money for the clearance of the car to another business.
The suspect allegedly promised to refund the money after the business yielded profit.
Mohammed was said to have heeded the pleas of members of the suspect’s family, who promised to pay the money two days after Afolabi’s release from detention.
However, after the release of the suspect, he was alleged to have fled.His brother, one Kunle, who stood as surety, was also alleged to have disappeared.
Mohammed said the car owner, Bright Nosa, flared up on hearing about the incident.
“Last Thursday, he brought some policemen to arrest me in my office. He took me to Maritime Police Command, Tin Can Island Port. We had a meeting with the area commander and I explained what happened to them. The officer asked what guarantee I could give for the refund of the money. He said he would have to detain me. I was locked up in a cell from Thursday till Tuesday. The culprit has been on bail and he is nowhere to be found,” he added.
The car owner, Nosa, who is based in Abuja, said he was unconcerned about Afolabi.
“It is none of my business. I don’t know about anybody that absconded with my money’; the only person that I know is the agent. I only have a problem with the agent,” he added.
The worker, Afolabi, has been unreachable on his telephone line since last Tuesday .
He had yet to respond to a text message also on Sunday.
His brother, Kunle, did not also pick his phone which rang out on Sunday.